The transcript below is from the video “I Trained with a Shaolin Warrior Monk for a Week” by Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

If you want to learn kung fu, you can’t be a wimp.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

China’s Shaolin temple is renowned as the birthplace of kung fu and warrior monks have been training there for thousands of years as a way to cultivate both their spiritual and practical fighting skills.

Now, I do crossfit workouts pretty regularly and I’m decently fit, but recently, I thought it would be interesting to see instead, what it would be like to train and live like a Shaolin monk. Now, fortunately, there is actually a real-life 34th generation challenge who runs his own temple only a few blocks away from my apartment in New York City. According to his wikipedia page, he can break rocks with his skull, deflect blades with his skin and sleep while hanging upside down from a tree branch. So, I decided to spend an entire week with him, learning the ways of the Shaolin monks and here’s what happened.

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Day #1, we got our Shaolin uniform. U.S.A Shaolin Temple, look at that.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Over there?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Si señor

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Okay.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Por favor (Please)

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Por favor ?! (Please?!) You speak Spanish?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Yeah, a little!

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Wow! A little?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Yeah.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Here?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Yeah

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

The changing room?

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

They store all the weapons in the training room too, in the locker room. They got like swords and stuff. Okay, I gotta tie this over here.

So, before even starting out with the kung fu, every lesson began with some pretty extreme stretching exercises – Shaolin style. This isn’t even real, this is like this is like CGI effects that you’re doing over there.

(Shaolin monk counting in Mandarin)

I think I broke something.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Now you gotta kiss your foot.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

And that was as far as I got with that one…

This dude is almost 60.

And you start to see why the stretching is so important when you actually start doing the shaolin kung fu stances. Looks like I need a little more stretching. So, after a few more hours of me mostly failing to keep up with the stances, we finished the session with some Tai Chi; a traditional chinese martial art that focuses on developing the body’s internal energy.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

You can tell the difference with what we just did. This [external martial arts] has more force, more external. But tai chi is more internal. Use your mind to move your qi.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah, right. I’ll be flying by the end of the week.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

You will.

[Laughter]

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

6 pm

Alright, now of course, living like a Shaolin monk requires not only training like one, but also eating like one too. As devout Buddhists, Shaolin monks typically eat a strictly vegetarian diet and fortunately, New York City’s chinatown has several excellent vegetarian Chinese restaurants. This type of food which originated with Chinese Buddhists uses flavored wheat gluten as a surprisingly delicious meat substitute.

Oh my god! I’m so hungry. I got a nice little vegetarian shallot meal up here. Oh my god! This is so good! It’s crazy that, like the Shaolin diet is so vegetarian despite the fact that they work out so hard.

Alright guys, New York City’s blizzarding today but we still got a train. You know, I normally do work out in the morning but like that, yesterday was just, I am so sore in muscles that I didn’t even know existed. Train harder, more qi. Let’s go.

So, after our regular stretching exercises, Shifu has a surprise in store for me.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

That’s the best you can do?

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Shaolin water bucket training. What began as a practical way to carry water to the temple has turned into a key part of Shaolin training known in Chinese as Tí shuǐ gōng or water-lifting kung fu.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

And you walk backwards?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Walk backwards or running, jogging. Also duck walk. Gotta build strength. Faster

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

This is way harder than it looks.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

So, what’s the purpose of this?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

In ancient China, we don’t have the wood or stick. Also arms as a stick. Yeah, to hold water buckets, to carry water for us to go to make food for example. Also the same time to build your strength and to train harder. Let’s do this.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

So, what do I do? Just hold it?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Hold it. Extend it. Yeah. Hold it, don’t drop it. If you want to learn kung fu, you can’t be a wimp.

Go to the temple. Feed the monks! More qi! Move!

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh my god! My arms have never hurt so much in my entire life.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

But your training not completed!

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh, okay.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

No. Oh I’m so sore.

Woman:

Wake up!

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

I don’t want to wake up.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

But to be perfectly honest, as the week went on, I did find my body improving in all sorts of ways. I noticed my flexibility increasing, my kicks getting higher and my aerobic capacity also seeming to improve. By our last day of class, the forms are definitely getting easier and easier to execute accurately.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

What’s the purpose of the calligraphy from the Shaolin perspective?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

The calligraphy, from your writing you can tell your personality. Yeah. [inaudible]

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

So, you’ll be able to tell depending on what I write, my personality.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

I can tell. Yes

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh, okay.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Teach you kung fu first.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah, a lot of people hear the word kung fu and they just think like: Oh, it’s martial arts. You’re fighting. But it’s really like just any type of work.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Like if someone cooks well, you can say they have good cooking kung fu.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Ye, good kung fu.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

In life, nothing easy, nothing hard.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

For example, our people from NASA went to Mars yesterday, you know.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah, that was incredible!

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

I apologize. I’ve never been good with calligraphy.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

(Claps) Very good. It’s fantastic.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

… not to go too too heavy..having a pressure but not too light

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

yeah

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

That’s how you’re writing the words, it’s art, it’s meditation.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah

Cameraman:

What does that tell, what’s that say about his personality?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Fantastic. Beautiful. Very good personality. Yes

(Laughs)

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

One…two…three Kou, your mouth

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Okay.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Very important. How to eat.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh. Wow!

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

You see these, they’re so happy, see?

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

When you tie them, they’re like this. They fall asleep, yeah. Ginger, summertime especially, eat more these.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Have you studied Art of War? Get more fire…

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

This is the fire qi?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Orange

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh, you make them for tea.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Aged orange peel tea is used in Chinese medicine to regulate qi.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Depending on depending on the type of food, it affects the the energy of the body differently

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Exactly. Meanwhile, liver well.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

What are you making today?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

A milk soup. one airplane out… 1960s, yeah sounds like a mold. Didn’t have enough food.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Right.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Pork. you boil bigger pot water. you put a little food inside the soup. Eventually make you pretty good beef soup.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh, wow!

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Yeah the soup. I don’t eat that. I don’t eat meat most of the time.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Right

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Just a broth. Yeah, you have to know how to eat. See, chilies.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Oh!

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Chilies, garlic

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Chillies and garlic

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

I put them together, so good. Help you to digest. Help to kill the germs.
Knock out. They say: Oh my god! What’s going on?

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Right.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

They’re scared. They run away. 8 days a week, we celebrate our precious life, yeah.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

8 days a week?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

8 days a week, we celebrate our… Snowing? Really? Oh, so nasty outside. That’s part of our life. Yeah, you have to know how to appreciate mother nature, that’s what makes you so happy. Complaining: oh this is not good, that’s not good. What do you mean not good? We need that. The life is so short, so precious. Everything’s new down in your life. Okay, let’s go.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

And then, finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for; weapons training.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

If you practice for one year, that’s good. And instead, one month, look fantastic. But this one take a lifetime. For example.

(Demonstration with weapons)

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Are these used for, I guess for war or where would you be fighting?

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

For war, warriors got this one, confused people

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Right

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

If you cross your feet, starting…

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

In chinese history most warriors, they just do this. One…next step… twist. Alright. That’s fantastic.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Wow! That was awesome.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

You did fantastic job.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Thank you so much.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

But you’re training now to complete it.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Yeah.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Keep training harder.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Alright.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Awesome.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Of course.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Beautiful. Alright.

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Thanks.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming (Shaolin Monk in USA Shaolin Temple):

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Feliz navidad.

(Claps)

Xiaoma (Xiaomanyc 小马在纽约):

Alright. Great.




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